Unravelling the diagnosis: What is Dyslexia?

This may feel like a question that you already know the answer to, Dyslexia is widely understood to be nothing more complex than a struggle with reading and writing. However, Dyslexics, their family, and friends know that Dyslexia is far more pervasive, and they want you to know that too.

The Rose Definition 

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed. Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities. It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points. Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration, and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.”

 So, clearly, although difficulty with reading and writing is common to most Dyslexics, it’s far from the whole picture, and this is often lost in the wider understanding of the condition.

 (The irony is not lost that the word ‘Dyslexia’ being so difficult to spell is compounded by its lengthy definition!)

 The Dyslexic Continuum

 So, what’s the problem of having a simplified understanding of Dyslexia being in the mainstream?   

Take this example; the parents of a little girl with (seemingly) functional reading and writing skills may overlook her difficulties with following instructions, organising herself, and starting her work. They may not consider that these difficulties are symptomatic of Dyslexia and that targeted specialist intervention may be necessary to ensure that the little girl achieves.

This little girl’s willpower and creative approach to learning might see her happily and successfully through her early education. But, as the demands of the curriculum increase, the gap between her and her peers starts to widen (to the confusion of all around her). She may well leave education frustrated, disengaged, and with mental health difficulties, having only achieved a fraction of what she would have been capable of with the right support. Children with learning disabilities are four and a half times more likely to have a mental health problem than children without a learning disability. 

What can we do?

Whether you’re at the start of the process: wondering if your child needs extra help and provision at school, or if your child has an Education, Health, and Care Plan (EHCP) and you’re worried that it’s not robust enough then we can help.

At Tees, we know that all children are different and cannot be distilled down to a list of diagnoses. Everyone’s experience of their neurodivergence, their needs, and the provision they require, differs. We have the expertise and personal experience of neurodivergence necessary to keep the individual child at the heart of what we do.   


Chat to the Author, Charlotte Middleditch

Solicitor, Dispute Resolution and Litigation, Cambridge office

Meet Charlotte

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